Pain and Purpose in Foster Care Reunification
The following story was written by a Christian Family Care foster mom, Katie. You can find links to her podcast and a video interview with her sharing more about her experience at the bottom of this article.
Saying “Yes” to Foster Care and the Unknown
Sometimes God asks us to do things that are outside of our timelines, ideas, and comfort zones. I can remember sitting on my couch, crying and telling God that I was so scared to say “yes” to foster care again.
We already had two babies at home in diapers. In fact, for the last year, my husband and I had been raising two babies at the same time. We took in a two-day-old baby girl when I was five months pregnant.
Everyone told us we were crazy, but I knew in my heart we were supposed to do it.
Making More Room
Those babies were now 17-months and 13-months-old. I kept feeling in my heart the words “make more room.” So, I did. I remember giving things away and putting things in storage, clearing space, and making room.
I went out to our car in 120-degree weather, and I began to clean it out and strategize how I would get three babies in all by myself when my husband was at work. I came in from cleaning out the car, threw all the stuff that needed to come inside on the floor, and told my husband, “I don’t know what else to do. I’ve made more room the only way I know how.”
That next day, I felt God so strongly speak to my heart, “I want you to be open to taking a placement… this week.” My heart jolted. I told God, “I’m scared. I’m going to tell my husband what I think you’re nudging us to do, and if he says no, I’m going with that. If he says yes, I’ll know this is from you.”
The Confirmation I Needed
I went to my husband that night at the dinner table, the babies were in bed, and I said, “I feel like God is asking us to take a placement… this week.” Without skipping a beat, he said, “Okay, let’s do it. I mean, you’ve made more room.” I looked at him like he was crazy, we talked about all the reasons we WOULDN’T take in a placement, and none of them were good enough. We knew we were supposed to do it.
My Biggest Fear
My biggest fear in becoming a family of five so rapidly was that I wouldn’t have the capacity for what I felt God was asking me to do. THREE babies under 18 months old. How was I supposed to have the capacity emotionally, physically, spiritually, or mentally?
God spoke to my heart over and over with many promises and pictures, but the biggest promise I clung to was when He told me, “I will carry you.” So, we stepped out in faith and answered His call. We said, “yes.”
I called my Christian Family Care worker and told her to put us on the list.
When Penelope Entered the Family
Little did I know that on the exact day we went on the list, a little baby girl named Penelope was born just 20 minutes away. She came into our home only two days later, with hospital bands still wrapped around her tiny little ankles. The day she was brought to us, DCS (Department of Child Safety) said, “Be ready to adopt this baby.” We were ready.
Her biological mom was also ready. She was ready to fight to get her baby back home.
The Note That Changed Everything
It was the summer of 2018 when Penelope came into our lives. My husband, Ken, and I had a 17-month-old daughter whom we adopted from foster care, a 13-month-old biological daughter, and now a two-day-old baby girl.
I remember when Penelope was just a week old, she was going on a visit with her biological mom. I felt this tug on my heart to write her mom a letter to tell her how much we adore her baby and how we were excited that she gets to visit with her.
So, that’s what I did. It was a short, encouraging note to her that said your daughter is safe, and there is hope for you. We were earnestly praying for Penelope’s mom, and we wanted her to know that. I wanted her to feel loved and seen, and part of this whole experience for us.
The Beginning of Beautiful Friendship
During the visit, Penelope’s mom wrote a note back to me. I read it and bawled my eyes out as the reality of the situation became heavy on my whole being. It wasn’t lost on me that I have this woman’s baby in my home, and she’s out there aching to get her back. The notes we wrote that day were the beginning of our beautiful friendship.
I was rooting for Penelope’s mom. She was doing everything right and trying so hard to get her baby back. I commended her efforts the entire time.
Despite her hard work, DCS case managers were telling us through the whole process that we were going to adopt this baby. It was such a struggle within my heart because I knew that if we adopted her, her mom would be losing her.
Penelope’s mom, Jazmin, and I had created such a deep bond and friendship. We would text every day. The love we shared for this little girl is what brought us together.
Shocking Court Hearing
Just a week before Penelope’s first birthday, a court hearing was scheduled where the judge would rule whether Jazmin’s rights as her mother were severed, and we would be able to move forward with adoption.
Since the beginning, we had been reassured that the case would move towards severance, so in our minds, that’s what we were expecting, but we were in for the surprise of our lives. It would be the messiest, most beautiful surprise.
We got a phone call right before the hearing stating that they were switching the case to reunify Penelope to her mom. I was shocked.
Is This What We Signed Up For?
Then I reminded myself that this is what we signed up for. We desired to be a key element in redeeming families back together. Although it didn’t take my pain away, I had peace and faith moving forward. I told my husband, “I believe this will be one of the most beautiful stories of reunification in the history of Arizona. God is up to something far greater than I could ever imagine.”
The court hearing began, and I sat on the phone and listened in. All was well until it wasn’t. I couldn’t stop shaking and feeling so attacked as I began to hear the attorney representing Jazmin come after us with false accusations.
This attorney started to tell lies about my social media, the podcast I produce, my husband’s professional baseball career, and our family. Everything that I had been hoping for seemed like it was just stripped away from us.
The court hearing was ugly, and I felt like this entire situation just hit rock bottom. I felt betrayed by Jazmin and confused about what just happened.
Feeling Like We Hit Rock Bottom
I cried out to God, “None of this makes sense! But you promised you would carry me.” I decided to stand firm on those promises and believe God was near, and he was working in the midst of this terrible situation. I had to remind myself of all the ways God came through in the past and had faith to believe that this wasn’t over.
This wasn’t the end. God truly can and will redeem all things.
Everything was different from that point on. Our future family looked different, and my relationship with Jazmin was different. However, slowly, God began to mend my heart to prepare me to reunify Penelope; He began to slowly repair our relationship as we transitioned little Penelope back to her mom.
Hopeful Through Heartache and Loss
I remember Penelope’s last night in our home. I sat with my toddlers, and my husband and I just cried as we tried to muster out prayers over her through all the tears. I laid her down to sleep for the last time, tears streaming down my face rapidly, and I prayed over her. I prayed that God would do miracles in her life, and we would get to watch her grow into a strong, beautiful girl.
I shut the door, and I went into the other room and sobbed. I thought I would be tucking her into bed for the rest of her adolescent life. Although I felt at peace that she was going back to her mom, at that same moment, I was so full of heartache for our loss.
We couldn’t imagine our little girl squad without Penelope in it. Our hearts ached for our other two girls who were too young to understand why their sister wouldn’t be around anymore. How do you explain the complexity of this case to a couple of two-year-olds? Ken and I prayed for God to protect their hearts and help fill the void that would be left by their youngest sister.
A Sweet Reminder
As I sat on my stairs and cried, I got a text from Jazmin. She asked, “How was your day with P?” I began to tell her that I was so happy for her, but my heart was hurting so bad at the thought of me laying her down to sleep for the last time.
She responded with, “This isn’t goodbye, it’s see you later. You will see Penelope again. We’re family now.” Accompanied with the text was a photo.
It was a picture of Penelope’s little ultrasound picture, her hospital bands that she came to our house with that I had given back, and the short note that I had written to her mom when Penelope was just a week old. She said, “You started it all with this.”
Little did I know that, 13 months ago, when I decided to write a note of encouragement to this hurting mom whose baby was just taken away from her, that same note would bring healing to me in the midst of my hurt when I felt like my baby was being taken from me.
Trusting God When It Doesn’t Make Sense
One of the number one reasons I hear why people don’t want to become foster parents is because they couldn’t imagine “giving the baby back.” I get that, because we’ve done it, and it’s hard. Foster care comes with so many emotions, a lot of tears, and unknowns. Through it all, though, I was hopeful.
Now, Jazmin and Penelope come over all the time, and she is one of my best friends. God completely redeemed every broken thing in this whole experience.
God is faithful. He is good. He makes a way when there is seemingly no way, and he always holds true to his promises. He carried my family and I through some heavy and dark moments, and we now see the light!
Reunifying Penelope back to her mom was the beginning of the most beautiful season for all of us. Penelope and Jazmin will always be family, and we get to see Penelope any time we want!
Let this encourage you that when you give things back to God and trust Him even when it doesn’t make sense, He will bring beauty and redemption. Do hard things, press into God, and believe that He will do what He says. His promises are sure; his faithfulness is steadfast. God writes a story for our lives that is way more beautiful than we could ever imagine, way more fulfilling.
Recently, I sat down with Jazmin and had a real and raw conversation with her as she shared HER side of the story. I recorded the conversation between us, our perspectives, and some tear-jerking beautiful moments in a three-part episode on my podcast, The Purposed Platform.
This story is very inspiring, and we wanted to share it with you.
You can listen to all three episodes on The Purposed Platform. You can listen to it anywhere you usually listen to podcasts:
You can follow Katie Roberts and her journey through foster care on social media here: www.instagram.com/katiellisroberts
**The views and opinions expressed in this blog and podcast do not reflect those of Christian Family Care**